Girls’ soccer: ConVal loses early lead, knocked out by Stark; WLC loses in OT at Concord Christian

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' soccer team traveled to John Stark for the opening round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/1/2019 10:57:46 AM

ConVal head coach Curt Martens warned his team before Thursday’s game – John Stark’s most dangerous ways to score would be set pieces and fouls. 

“It was exactly what we feared,” Martens said after the game, a 2-1 win for the No. 8 Generals that knocked the No. 9 Cougars out in the first round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs. “I almost jinxed us, I think, because that’s what I was saying the threats were and those were the two.”

The game was moved to New England College’s turf field due to the inch-plus of rain that fell throughout the day; ConVal hadn’t won a game on turf all year, losing at Oyster River and Souhegan, but the Generals were in the same boat with a tie at Oyster River. 

ConVal went up 1-0 in the 17th minute on their own set piece, a free kick from Kendall Larson to the head of Nikki Bell, who connected and drove the ball past Stark keeper Emaly Roy for an early lead. 

“It’s tough to take the lead and then hold it,” Martens said. “You’re working to keep it the whole time and that puts added strain on you...we weathered it as long as we could.”

The early rain subsided, and with it, the ConVal attack  decreased in intensity as well. The Cougars took their lead into the half, but the Generals came out after the break with renewed vigor, earned a corner, and scored on a perfect strike from Bella Roy to Arden Ulmer for the equalizing header.

“Everybody needed to step up to the level of the players who were setting the level,” Martens said, “and I think there was a little despondency between players looking at players to do something, and you’ve got to say ‘I’m going to do it.’ It’s that second read of the game where you anticipate, for good or evil, something, and move, instead of just watching, and I think it’s that step behind that’s killing us when we have people watching.”

After scoring on their set piece, the Generals fulfilled the rest of Martens’ prophecy in the 85th minute, drawing a foul in the 18-yard box and setting up Ulmer for a penalty kick. Ulmer kept it on the ground to ConVal keeper Mairin Burgess’s right, and the ball just snuck its way inside the post past the goalies’ outstretched fingertips.

ConVal’s attack, led by Bell, Cami Hendrixson and Kara Keiper, pressed in the final moments, but nothing found the net, and the Cougars’ season ended at 8-8-1. 

John Stark (10-6-1) has the unenviable task of traveling to No. 1 undefeated Hanover (16-0); the Marauders dominated DII this season, allowing only four goals total in 16 games. 

ConVal expects the majority of their young roster to return next season, when Martens hopes to improve his team’s mental toughness down the stretch.

“It’s like [Liverpool manager] Jurgen Klopp says, I do not want the toughest team, I want the mentally toughest team,” Martens said, “because that’s the team that will hold a 1-0 victory, that’s the team that will get the last-minute penalty to eke out a win, because that’s what champions do, they mentally stay tough throughout everything, focus on the game plan, and stick to it and don’t waver whether they’re up a goal or down three goals, and we wavered.”

Bell, Burgess, Hendrixson, Larson, Keiper, Ayla Laro and Eva McCullough played well, Martens said, and epitomized the day-in, day-out mentality needed to succeed. 

“The players that listen to coach, take direction to really work on that during practice, all had a great game, whereas anybody that shrugs off the really tedious finesse practice of the sport or doesn’t hop into the scrimmage with everything they’ve got in practice, towards the end of the season, they were all busted up mentally,” Martens said. “They were the ones out there today letting the balls bounce over them, through them, picking up their foot, losing tackles, and all the kids that were really, really on it in practice every day had great games. So we just keep shining a spotlight on every single one of those players and hope that everybody picks up on it’s not just that they’re good players, it’s that every day when they come to practice they’re there early, they’re there ready and they put themselves into every single drill and exercise we have so that when they come to the field, they can hold it.”

 

Concord Christian 4, Wilton-Lyndeborough 3

No. 7 Concord Christian scored first in Thursday’s Division IV playoff opener against No. 10 Wilton-Lyndeborough and took their 1-0 lead into the half, but the game was far from over. 

Ella Kelley evened things up with a blast from 20 yards, and Sam Yurcak put WLC up 2-1 with another Warrior goal before CCA scored two straight and had a 3-2 lead with five minutes left. That’s when WLC scoring machine Elisabeth Jacob got the ball in the box, dribbled herself open, drew a foul and scored on the PK to tie it at three and force overtime. 

The teams battled through one overtime period and most of another before CCA blocked a clearing attempt, took the ball and scored to win it, 4-3. 

Senior Rama Koudsi made 15 saves for WLC (10-7).

Head coach Dan Ayotte will be looking for another new keeper next year, but otherwise returns all but two of his players. 

“Looking forward to next season already,” Ayotte said.   ​​

Jacob finished with 37 goals on the season, good for a tie for 11th all-time on the New Hampshire Soccer Coaches’ Association records list. Two other players, Madeline Austin of Sunapee (2016) and Jaclyn Henderson of Portsmouth Christian (2004) scored 37 in a season. The record is 70 by Gabi Brummett of Derryfield in 2014.


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